Xaarは今年の前半の中間結果を公開しましたが、それは私が昔通っていた学校の殆どの通信簿よりもさらに赤く(笑)、薄膜ピエゾプリントヘッドをあきらめるようにと Xaarを促しているかのようです。
Xaar losses lead to thin film exit
Xaar has published its interim results for the first half of this year, with even more red than most of my old school reports, and which has prompted the company to give up on its thin film piezo printheads.

Xaar’s 5601 is a thin film silicon MEMs printhead suitable for aqueous applications.

見出しの数字は、昨年上半期の 3,500万ポンド(約 47億円)から減少した 2,250万ポンド(約 30億円)の売上高です。Xaarの CEOであるダグ・エドワーズは、昨年上半期の数字には、セイコーインスツルメンツ社からの 9.7百万ポンド(約 13億円)のロイヤルティ一括支払い(■ 大野註:契約残存期間のロイヤリティを一括支払ってしまうこと。次年度からはロイヤリティ収入は無くなる)に加えて、改修のために返された 1201プリントヘッドに対する 430万ポンドの収益が含まれていたと指摘しており、これを調整すると今年の売上高は実際、昨年よりわずかに 1%改善されています。これは、昨年の期間が当時考えていたよりも悪かったため、今年の前半はそれほど悪くないと主張しています。いずれにせよ、本当に悪いニュースは先月のレターでこの中間決算の発表を遅らたことであり、下半期のパフォーマンスはほぼ同じになると警告したことです。つまり、通年の収益は前年の 6,350万ポンド(約 87億円)に対して、約 4,500万ポンド(約 61億円)になると思われることです。
The headline figure is revenue of £22.5 million, down from the £35 million of last year’s first half. Doug Edwards, Xaar’s CEO, points out that last year’s first half figures included a one-time royalty payment from Seiko Instruments Inc of £9.7 million plus a £4.3 million revenue reversal over some 1201 printheads that were returned for refurbishment, meaning that the underlying revenues for this year’s results are actually a slight 1 percent improvement over last year, which is essentially arguing that this year’s first half isn’t so bad because last year’s period was worse than we thought at the time. In any case, the really bad news is actually in last month’s letter delaying this announcement, which cautioned that the second half performance would be roughly similar, meaning that the full year revenue is likely to be somewhere around £45 million, as opposed to the £63.5 million from the previous year.

ここからは更に悪い話となります。売上原価は 16.25百万ポンド(約 22億円)から 25.1百万ポンド(約 34億円)へと劇的に上昇し、販売およびマーケティング費用は 450万ポンド(約 6.1億円)までわずかに増加しましたが、R&D支出は減少しましたが、依然 430万ポンド(約 5.8億円)を占め、1,320万ポンド(約 17.8億円)もの総損失が発生しました。
From here on, it gets worse. The cost of sales rose dramatically from £16.25m to £25.1m, sales and marketing expenses were slightly up to £4.5m, while R&D spending was down but still accounted for £4.3m, and so on, leading to a gross loss of £13.2m.

そして、これに加えて薄膜ビジネスがあります。Xaarは、昨年の数字と並んで、コストを分散させるために薄膜分野で戦略的パートナーを見つける必要があると発表しましたが、そのようなパートナーを見つけることができなかったため、同社はこのビジネスのレビューを発表し、これをお蔵入りさせることに決めましたそれ。これにより、上半期の数字にさらに 39百万ポンド(約 53億円)の減損費用が追加され、税引前の合計損失は 52.3百万ポンド(約 71億円)、税引後の損失は 49.87百万ポンド(約 67億円)になります。
And then there is the thin film business. Xaar announced alongside last year’s figures that it would need to find a strategic partner to work with in thin film to help spread the costs but having failed to find such a partner, the company announced a review of this business, and has now decided to mothball it. This adds a further £39m impairment charge to the first half figures, making a total loss before tax of £52.3m, or a loss of £49.87m after tax.

エドワーズは次のように説明します。「問題はテクノロジーではありませんでしたが、そのまま使い続けるとお金がなくなり、会社が倒産するため選択の余地がありません。」更に彼は続けます。「薄膜は成功する技術ですが、薄膜で遊ぶために必要な投資レベルは相当なものであり、私たちの規模の会社にとっては非常に大きなものです。私たちはこれまでの 20倍もの費用を費やした人々と競争しているので、富士フイルムやエプソンなどと競争力のある製品に仕上げるのはとてつもない話になります。」
Edwards explains: “The issue was not the technology but if we continue to spend as we are then we will run out of money and the company will go under and so we don’t have any choice.” He continues: “We think that thin film is a winning technology but to play in thin film the level of investment required is substantial and for a company of our size it’s very substantial. We are competing with people who have spent 20 times what we have spent, so to come up with a product that’s competitive with the likes of Fujifilm and Epson is quite an achievement.”

Sample objects printed on the EPS XD360 direct to object printer using Xaar 1003 printheads.
EPS XD360で印刷されたサンプルオブジェクトは、Xaar 1003プリントヘッドを使用してオブジェクトプリンターに直接送られます。

Xaarのコアテクノロジーは、バルクフィルムピエゾプリントヘッドの製造です。これは、UVインクやいくつかの 3Dプリントアプリケーションを含むさまざまな工業用流体などの粘性材料の噴射に非常に効果的です。Xaarは、セラミック市場が大量にインクジェットを採用したときに大きな成功を収めましたが、他の市場でこの成功を再現することができませんでした。それはセラミック市場が飽和状態になったときに痛々しいほど明白になりました。
Xaar’s core technology is making bulk film piezo printheads, which are extremely effective at jetting a range of viscous materials such as UV inks and various industrial fluids, including several 3D printing applications. Xaar had great success when the ceramics market adopted inkjet en masse, but has not managed to replicate this success in other markets, which became painfully obvious when the ceramic market reached saturation.

これは主に、Xaarが水系の液体を出射できるプリントヘッドを持っていなかったためで、これを克服するために薄膜技術の開発に着手しました。Xaarの薄膜戦略は、二つの面から成り立っています。すなわち、主力 5601ヘッドの開発に資金を投入するために意図された 1201ヘッドで、ふたつのヘッド間でシリコン MEMs製造のコストを分散するように考えられたのです。1201は、コストを抑えるために比較的安価なプリントヘッドを探していた中国のプリンターベンダーを特に対象としていました。最終的に、中国市場での需要の軟化が 1201の販売に打撃を与え、薄膜プロジェクト全体を台無しにしました。皮肉なことに、Xaarの財務上の問題の一部は、1201ヘッドを生産しすぎたことに起因しているため、同社は現在、既存の顧客に長年にわたって供給する十分な在庫があると確信しています。いずれにせよ、Xaarはバルクフィルムテクノロジーを使用してこの市場を満足させることができるため、1201をやめても問題はありません。
This has mostly been because Xaar did not have a printhead capable of jetting water-based fluids and so it set out to develop thin film technology to overcome this. Xaar’s thin film strategy was two-pronged, with its 1201 head designed to bring in money to fund development of the flagship 5601, and to spread the cost of the Silicon MEMs fabrication between the two heads.The 1201 was targeted specifically at Chinese printer vendors, who were looking for a relatively cheap printhead to keep their costs down. Ultimately, softening demand in the Chinese market has hit the sales of the 1201 and undermined the entire thin film project. Ironically, since part of Xaar’s financial problems come from having produced too many 1201 heads, the company is now confident that it has enough stock to supply its existing customers for many years. In any case, Xaar could use bulk film technology to satisfy this market so walking away from the 1201 isn’t such a problem.

The Xaar 1201 printhead was developed for wide format scanning printers in the Chinese market.

However, losing the 5601 printhead does put Xaar in a very weak position. The biggest growth area in printing right now is the textile market, which is all about water-based inks. Similarly, all the printer vendors are betting that they can expand into the packaging market, and that they can develop water-based inks as part of this. Packaging can be split into two main types of substrates: paper-based packaging such as corrugated and folding carton, where we are already seeing a growing number of inkjet presses; and film-based materials, which is the subject of a great deal of R&D activity as vendors look to develop water-based inkjet inks and/or associated primers or coatings. Inevitably as this work bears fruit there will be more printing to film-based packaging, with this market likely to rival the growth in textiles.

Xaarはお金を薄膜に注入することに賭けましたが、水系の液体の潜在的な市場を考えると、合理的な賭けであり、もしそれが外れていれば、Xaarは非常に強力な地位にいたでしょう。業界には Xaarのような独立したプレーヤーが必要なので、これは Xaarの損失ではないのです。(■ 大野註:Nessanの意見では、ヘッドメーカーが全部、所謂大手の傘下に入るのではなく、独立したポジションのヘッドベンダーが有った方がいいよいというものです。大野もそう思います)
Xaar took a gamble in pumping money into thin film, but it was a reasonable bet to take given the potential markets for water-based fluids and if it had come off then Xaar would have been in an extremely strong position. This is not just Xaar’s loss as the industry needs an independent player like Xaar.

Edwards says: “We don’t want to give up the aqueous market. It’s a major environmental and economic market in many applications so we can’t ignore it. But there’s still growth where perhaps water is not the solvent of choice like 3D printing where you are jetting a polymer or electronic component manufacture where you won’t want water, and some of them could be pretty big markets.”

エドワーズは、Xaarには水性インクを噴射できるプリントヘッド、すなわち 5501がまだあると指摘します。5501は、Xaarと Xeroxのパートナーシップの一環として開発されたバルク圧電ヘッドです。エドワーズによれば、5501は 5601と同等の解像度と速度を持ちます。「しかし、すべてが 5601に焦点を合わせていたため、積極的にはプッシュしませんでした」と言います。しかし、2年前に導入された 5501は、主に 5601が対象とするハイエンドのシングルパスプロダクションマシンではなく、ワイドフォーマットスキャンプリンタなどの安価なソリューションです。
Edwards points out that Xaar does still have a printhead capable of jetting aqueous inks, namely the 5501, which is a bulk piezo head developed as part of Xaar’s partnership with Xerox. Edwards says that the 5501 has a similar resolution and speed to the 5601, adding: “But we havn’t pushed it because all our focus had been on 5601.” However, the 5501, which was introduced two years ago, is mainly aimed at cheaper solutions such as wide format scanning printers, rather than the high end single pass production machines that the 5601 could also target.

Xaar could still license the thin film technology as it did in the early days with its bulk film printheads, with Edwards saying: “We are still looking at options for our thin film business because we think the technology is a winning technology but we have had to set a deadline.”

Edwards also says that Xaar could look at how it sells its heads, noting: “In the past we sold printheads to anybody that wanted to buy. We want to have much tighter relationships because we are just one of many suppliers with a handful of customers and there’s no loyalty.”

3D printed samples at Xaar.

また、エドワーズは高速焼結技術と Stratasysとの合弁事業で 3D印刷に移行する Xaarを監督し、対象物にダイレクトプリントを指向する米国企業の Engineered Printing Solutionsの買収を通じて OEMになり、独自のプリンターを構築しました。エドワーズは、Xaarは OEMルートを継続し、薄膜への投資が利用可能なすべてのリソースを消費したため、Xaarはさらなる買収には進行になる必要があると指摘しました。彼はさらに次のように付け加えます。「少しの現金が自由になれば、特に製品の印刷分野で再び買収を検討します。」
Edwards has also overseen Xaar moving into 3D printing with its High Speed Sintering technology and joint venture with Stratasys, as well as becoming an OEM and building printers in its own right through the acquisition of the US company Engineered Printing Solutions, which makes direct to object printers. Edwards says that Xaar will continue down the OEM route, noting that Xaar had to put any further acquistions on ice as the thin film investment consumed all the available resources. He adds: “Once we free up a bit of cash we will start to look again, particularly at the product printing area.”

エドワーズはまた、これらの最新の数字の悲観にもかかわらず、セラミック市場への売上の 9%の成長、および主にガラスへの印刷のための装飾市場への売上を含むいくつかの小さな成長があることを指摘しています。いずれも 2001バルクピエゾプリントヘッドが使われる分野です。Xaarは、3D印刷やフラットパネルディスプレイなどの分野の 1003 Advanced Manufacturingヘッド、および主にコーディングおよびマーキングセクターの 501ヘッドでもある程度の成功を収めています。これは、Xaarの固定費のほとんどが生産(量)に結びついているため重要です。既存のリソースをより有効に活用することは正しい方向への一歩です。
Edwards also points out that despite the gloominess of these latest figures there are some small growth shoots, including 9 percent growth in sales to the ceramic market, as well as sales to the décor market, mainly for printing to glass, both of which use the 2001 bulk piezo printheads.Xaar has also had some success with its 1003 Advanced Manufacturing head in areas such as 3D printing and flat panel displays, and with its 501 head, mainly in the coding and marking sector. This is significant because of most of Xaar’s fixed costs are tied up in its manufacturing so making better use of its existing resources is a step in the right direction.

Nonetheless, it’s difficult to see Xaar enjoying the sort of growth and revenues that it did in the midst of the ceramic boom if it continues to miss out on the aqueous ink market unless it can find an alternative.

その間、Xaarは明らかに買収の標的になりますが、Xaarを購入できる余裕のある殆どの企業はすでに独自のヘッドテクノロジーを所有しています。 Xaarには最先端の製造施設と 3Dプリントテクノロジーへの関与があります。更に、産業用印刷のさらなる成長が見込まれ、Xaarのバルクフィルムピエゾプリントヘッドはこれに非常に適していると思います。
In the meantime, Xaar is clearly a takeover target though most of the companies that could afford it already have head technologies of their own. That said Xaar has a state of the art manufacturing facility and a stake in a 3D print technology. In addition, I believe that we will see much more growth in industrial printing and Xaar’s bulk film piezo printheads are a very good fit for this.

John Mills, former CEO of Inca Digital, will take over as CEO of Xaar.

These disappointing figures will also lead to another bout of restructuring, which mainly involves job losses, with some 100 staff set to leave the company. Edwards himself is also leaving to return to his family back in the US. Shomit Kenkare has resigned as chief financial officer, despite having only taken up this job back in November 2018. The Chairman of the board, Robin Williams, is due to relinquish his role in March 2020 when the full year financial results are released. Andrew Herbert, a non-executive director, will take over as Chairman next year, while Margaret Rice-Jones, Senior Independent Director, will also leave in March.

エドワーズはジョン・ミルズに引き継がれます。ジョン・ミルズは、2019年 8月にプリントヘッドビジネスユニットのヘッドとして Xaarに入社し、2019年 12月 31日に CEOを正式に引き継ぎます。彼は5年務めたインカデジタルを 2018年 10月に辞任しました。ミルズはいつも非常に現実的な態度を持っていると私は評価しており、彼の任命は、Xaarの投資家の間で要注視な案件とになるでしょう。
Edwards will be succeded by John Mills, who joined Xaar in August 2019 as head of the Printhead Business Unit and will formally take over as CEO on 31 December 2019. Many readers may remember that Mills was previously CEO of another Cambridge-based inkjet company, Inca Digital, stepping down after five years in October 2018. Mills always struck me as having a very pragmatic attitude and his appointment should steady nerves amongst Xaar’s investors.

You can read more about Xaar on its website here, including the financial results here.